I’m a city boy and proud of it. Nothing wrong with the country or the South – I’ve got a girlfriend that comes from both – but I do best around concrete and noisy people. I can in fact sleep on the subway – although I don’t so that my younger siblings don’t learn the habit from me. I can negotiate all five boroughs of New York with ease.
I’m not afraid of the country. I like trees. I can even mow grass – that skill having been acquired years earlier when my brothers and I were trying to earn extra money while staying with my Aunt and Uncle for a month. I don’t have anything against country – other than I stink at it.
I get lost in Central Park if I get too far off the paths, okay? Trees are nice – but they all look the same. I hated camping as a Boy Scout – oh, loved the hiking and fishing and goofing off – just not the danged Map Reading, Using a Compass or any of the other ‘get there from here’ type badges I had to earn. Give me a street map and I can get anywhere – marking a trial and you might as well just go ahead and call Search and Rescue ’cause I’m going to get lost.
I know this had come up in conversation – although I admit, I doubt Crystal realized just how bad I am at this. Still, you would have thought at least she’d have tried to convince her parents that a weekend with both our families in the Adirondacks was a bad idea for my sake. But no, she was looking forward to it.
I am one of nine kids. She has three cousins visiting. Counting parents, that’s seventeen people – how can camping possibly be a good idea?
I was wondering that for the millionth time as my brothers and I finished packing the rental bus. Tim has a CDL so we didn’t have to pay for a driver at least. I didn’t know the details – my Momma had told me to fork over $75 and I’d done so dutifully. Coming from a large family does prepare you well for knowing what battles to pick – there were sixteen of them versus one of me. Not a hard choice, really.
I suppose I was softening up a bit on the trip up there. Country is beautiful, I have to admit and the gorgeous girl seated beside me certainly sweetened the deal. I never get tired of looking at Crystal. Even when she’s ready to take my head off – which only happened the once – she’s still a show stopper.
I softened up a little more when we checked in at the lodge. This was fairly nice – rustic in appearance but not reality. I’d known we were supposed to have cabins – Momma had told me that much – but ‘camping’ still meant ‘pup tents’ to me so I’d envisioned ramshackle shacks and outhouses. Actually, I was hoping for outhouses – we hadn’t packed any spades.
I softened to butter when we got to the cabins. AC, electricity, running water and kitchenettes – this was the best version of ‘camping’ I’d ever seen. Sure, I was sharing a cabin with my four brothers and Crystal’s cousin but two bedrooms and seven bunks? I could live with this!
Unpacking wasn’t much of a chore – I had visions of lazing under a shady tree by the lake and quiet, star lit evenings with my best girl running through my head. Oh sure, my day dreams were punctuated by shrill yells as the girls discovered a frog by their cabin door and lots of questions and comments from my younger siblings – but that was my normal life. This could work.
Crystal and her cousin Terri rescued my two youngest sisters from the frog. I finally convinced my brother Mike that sleeping in the other bedroom with Marty and Crystal’s cousin was not the same thing as eating at the little kid’s table since Crystal’s cousin was older than me. I was stuck with Tim, who cannot sleep without tossing and Kevin, who keeps defying medical science with his freight train snore and perfect sleep test findings.
In hindsight, I should have just let Mike sleep with them.
The five cabins – one spare had no beds – ringed a communal lodge with a full kitchen. We’d finished unpacking, saving my sisters from wildlife, corralling everyone and the general chaos of large group arrivals so we decided to head for the lodge to check it out. Opening the door, I realized it was official – we were in Heaven. Momma and Mrs Abernathy had already found the kitchen and begun the process of transporting us to culinary bliss.
Southern cuisine and Italian cuisine are both wonderful in their own rights – although being my Momma’s boy, I do lean partially toward Italian – but together, they are something else again. If I’d had known this was what a kitchen would smell like with the two of them cooking at the same time, I’d have built them a joint kitchen somehow.
Sitting in the lodge, holding Crystal’s hand, listening to the happy blather and reveling in the ambrosial scents wafting from the kitchen, I was the happiest camper in the place.
But I’m also a slayer – of course, it couldn’t last.